Reasons to be cheerful, part 1: upcoming North East shows

With the festive season all done but the credit card, where is a girl to wear her sequins now? It’s the season of jumpers rather than joy, so in order to dispel the January gloom, I thought I would share some of the theatre I am looking forward to over the next few months.

Live Theatre is looking to have a bumper year, as it celebrates its 50th year – which rather depressingly makes it just a little younger than me, but hey, at least it didn’t have to celebrate its milestone during a pandemic (not bitter, me, not at all…).

Deciding to spend its birthday looking forward, not backward, all of its tentpole plays celebrate the thing the theatre is best known for: new writing. Love It if We Beat Them by Rob Ward is set during the 1996 Premier League season (if you want to be reminded where the title came from, google “Kevin Keegan 1996”) but tackles more than just football.

Singer Nadine Shah’s playwriting debut (co-written with Jackie Thompson) To Be a Young Man has people hipper than me extremely excited (I’m afraid that, being old and out of it, I hadn’t actually heard of Shah till I saw her in Midsummer Night’s Dream at Northern Stage recently, in which she excelled, but all the cool kids are keen so I’d suggest you get booking now). I’m also curious to see what young-talent-on-the-rise Elijah Young does with a broader palette in family saga The Cold Buffet. (I saw his earlier play Isolation at Alphabetti and it showed an awful lot of promise.)

The thing I am personally anticipating most is Three Acts of Love, mainly because of the three playwrights who have written it, Laura Lindow, Naomi Obeng and Vici Wreford-Sinnott, Lindow is a major favourite of mine, and I’m also keen to discover more about the others.

I’m also told there will be various special events throughout the year to mark the celebration, so keep your eye out for announcements! You can buy tickets and find out more at:

Northern Stage also has a jam-packed offering this year. This year’s theme is ‘This is Family’ – which, in Northern Stage style, it defines broadly and inclusively – and it offers the theatre’s usual mix of smaller, quirkier work, touring shows and big home-grown productions.

Artistic Director Natalie Ibu’s big show is Protest, a new work by Hannah Lavery, focused on three young girls finding their own voice, while the theatre has scored a major coup with Dave Johns’ adaptation of Ken Loach film I, Daniel Blake, which probably couldn’t be more timely. Likely to be one of the must-sees of the year, you might be advised to book your ticket for this one now.

Of the touring shows, I am super excited to see Emma Rice’s Brief Encounter, which I missed out on when it was in London due to train strikes (plus ca change…) but have heard amazing things about. The school exams crowd will also be delighted to see that adaptations of classic texts abound – Kidnapped, Lord of the Flies and Wuthering Heights all make an appearance, with the latter looking particularly exciting.

As always, a lot of the smaller shows only make short pit stops, so early booking advised – though those gutted to miss out on A Night Without Kate Bush might be relieved to know its added another night.

Those of you who like to plan your festivities early willt be glad to know you can already book your tickets for the Christmas show, Cinderella: A Fairy Tale, which promises a fresh take on a classic.

I’ll hopefully be attending the Northern Stage season launch in Feb, so look forward to hearing more about the season then and reporting back. In the meantime, you can find out more at:

Over at Alphabetti, the new season kicks off with Tiny Fragments of Beautiful Light, written by Allison Davies and directed by Karen Traynor, a play about neurodiversity which has been designed with neurodiverse audiences in mind. I literally just booked my ticket today!

Forest Sounds Person Spec, about the world of job hunting, places the audience as interview panel, while new play Faun is a comedybilled as a celebration of queer community and both look like they could be fun. Having seen talented poet Degna Stone do a response piece to an earlier play, I am curious to see The Lies, while black comedy Chop, Dissolve, Burn – which tackles themes around disability –has my interest piqued.

As ever with Alphabetti, there are a range of pricing options, including some Pay What You Can runs, and as with both Northern Stage and Live, there are some great short-run shows. The regular Showaoke nights sound like a riot, while the theatre also offers regular artist meet ups.

One show I can personally recommend is Si Beckwith’s Bricks, based on his experience as a step-parent. I went to see it – with admittedly very low expectations (sorry, Si!) – when it was at The Stand. I’ve met Beckwith a few times through work and he’s very likeable, but I generally find stand up comedy very hit or miss, so was very relieved indeed to have found it unexpectedly both funny and charming, meaning I don’t have to avoid him next time I see him in the bar…

You can find out more at:

Obviously, there are more than 3 theatres in the North East, so stay tuned for Part 2…


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